For some Christians, Lent, the period between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday (from February 22 to April 7 this year), is a time of fasting, abstinence, prayer and penance.
Nowadays our culture is more about cleanses and rapid weight-loss diets than religious fasting, but finding myself unable to fit into my one pair of lederhosen, I thought it the perfect time to blend the old with the new. Since I love beer and food equally, I knew I had to abstain from one of the two for Lent to get back into my leather shorts.
Clearly, food had to go.
Fortunately, there’s a Pope-approved diet for shedding those unwanted pounds that make me look like an overstuffed bratwurst. Specifically, the Lenten beer or doppelbock diet of the German monks of Paulaner.
Interestingly, the doppelbock diet was so delicious that the monks initially worried it might serve as an indulgence rather than a penance. As such, they sent a barrel to Rome for a special papal dispensation. During the beer’s transport across the Alps, the barrel tossed and turned for several weeks and was exposed to the burning sun. By the time the Pope had a taste, it was so vile that he deemed it beneficial for the souls of the Munich monks and allowed them to make and drink as much of it as they could.
As an escape from the rigours of the Lenten season, each year thousands of Munich residents gather annually in the Paulaner beer hall on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) to kick off two weeks of Starkbierfest, or the strong beer festival. Just like Oktoberfest, a celebrity or the mayor usually taps the season’s first cask of Paulaner Salvator. Not as touristy as Oktoberfest, Starkbierfest is the more authentic German beer festival.
As members of the dark lager family of beers, doppelbocks contain more grain than a regular brew, but aren’t as thoroughly fermented, leaving a sweet finish with lots of residual carbohydrates. The most famous and original doppelbock is Salvator (“Our Saviour” in Latin), brewed by Paulaner. This brew weighs in at 18.3 degrees plato (the measure of fermentable sugars in raw beer). If you boil away the water and alcohol, the residual fermentables left over in a typical litre of doppelbock will be 30 grams of solids. In layman’s terms, that means one massive German mug (called a Mas) of doppelbock is roughly equivalent to three loaves of bread. There is also the yeast, which contains B-complex vitamins, making it a hearty, nutritious brew that’s often referred to as “liquid bread.”
Sadly, Salvator isn’t available in Alberta anymore, but there are plenty of other amazing examples of doppeldbock in better beer stores, such as:
• Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock (6.7 per cent) — The second most famous doppelbock, this brew is the perfect balance of hops and malt. The goats adorning the label and the plastic goat hanging around the neck of the bottle reference Einbeck, which loosely translates to “One Goat,” where the first bocks where brewed. (Goats are often featured on doppelbock labels.)
• Les Trois Mousquetaires Doppelbock (8 per cent) — This is a Québécois example of the style and has big notes of dark, chocolate-y malts and dark fruits, making for a delicious Lenten treat.
As to my beer diet, I can now fit in my lederhosen again with room to spare, although I should note that no health and nutrition experts have sanctioned this diet... yet.